x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Iran regime calls for show of 'hatred' against opposition protesters

Authorities call rally for tomorrow, claim Sane'e Jaleh, man shot on Monday, was government supporter, as opposition insists he was one of theirs.

People attend the funeral of Sane'e Jaleh, a student who was shot dead during an opposition rally on Monday, in Tehran yesterday. The opposition claims the funeral was hijacked by government supporters.
People attend the funeral of Sane'e Jaleh, a student who was shot dead during an opposition rally on Monday, in Tehran yesterday. The opposition claims the funeral was hijacked by government supporters.

Iranian authorities have called for a mass rally tomorrow to express "hatred" against the "evil" opposition that rattled the government on Monday by staging its first street protests for a year.

Defiantly, the opposition Green movement's two main leaders, MirHossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karrubi, yesterday issued fresh verbal onslaughts against the government, despite demands from hardliners they be hanged.

The regime's call for an orchestrated show of popular muscle came as clashes erupted at the funeral of one of two students killed in Monday's anti-government protests.

Official news agencies claimed that Sane'e Jaleh, 27, was a loyal member of the volunteer Basij militia, killed by anti-government protesters.

But the art student's friends and opposition websites countered, far more convincingly, that he was a staunch supporter of the Green movement, shot dead by security forces.

They accused the regime of cynically trying to take advantage of one of their martyrs, and of hijacking his state-sanctioned funeral by flooding it with busloads of supporters to prevent the ceremony at Tehran University becoming the flashpoint for more protests.

"University occupied by the military - martyr's body carried on the shoulders of murderers," read the headline on an article carried by the opposition Kaleme website.

Opposition supporters meanwhile circulated a photo on the internet of Mr Jaleh, a Sunni Kurd, meeting the late Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, a spiritual guide for the Green movement, in 2009.

Government-backed supporters at Mr Jaleh's funeral chanted "Death to Karrubi!" and "Death to Mousavi!"

A BBC correspondent who attended the ceremony said he did not see any major clashes. But he said security forces had blocked all roads leading to the university and were allowing in only pro-government supporters.

Iran's prosecutor general, Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejei, yesterday vowed to prosecute Mr Mousavi and Mr Karrubi, both of whom had called for Monday's demonstrations. They have been under house arrest since last week.

"The heads of seditions are people who should be punished for their criminal acts and, God willing, actions in this regard are being taken," Mr Ejei said.

Unbowed, Mr Karrubi proclaimed yesterday: "I am not afraid of any kind of threat and as a soldier of this great nation for the past almost 50 years, I am ready to pay any price."

The septuagenarian cleric warned the regime to "listen to the voice of the people before it is too late".

Separately, Mr Mousavi hailed Monday's rally as a "great achievement for the great people of a great nation and for the Green movement".

There have been growing calls from hardline factions to arrest the opposition leaders, a high-risk move that could well ignite intensified protests from pro-democracy activists energised by the wave of unrest in parts of the Arab world.

A group of hardline parliamentarians on Tuesday called for Mr Mousavi and Mr Karrubi to be hanged. Several hundred people were detained after Monday's protests, opposition groups said.

Iran's Islamic Propagation Coordination Council, which organises regime-backed programmes, proclaimed that those joining the rally after Friday prayers will "scream out their hatred, wrath and disgust" against the "savage crimes and evil movements of sedition leaders".

Iran's judiciary chief, Ayatollah Sadegh Larijani, last week said that Mr Mousavi and Mr Karrubi had not been arrested during the mass protests that followed the 2009 presidential elections because such action would have turned them into "saints".

Mr Jaleh was one of two protesters killed on Monday. The other was Mohammad Mokhtari, 22, also a Green Movement supporter. His funeral was held amid tight security in eastern Tehran yesterday.

Mr Mokhtari's last Facebook entry, two days before his death, read: "God let me die standing because I'm tired of living in degradation."

mtheodoulou@thenational.ae